With just over two weeks left till the MLB Trade Deadline is upon us, expect the hot stove to catch fire. Brian Cashman and the Yankees will once again be at the forefront of discussions in the days leading up to July 31.
The target? Starting pitching.
Last season brought J.A. Happ, while Sonny Gray served as 2017's big acquisition. This summer has the chance to be very different, though, as the Yankees aim to acquire an ace -- or close to it. In many ways, it could be the right summer to make the deal for an impact starter that the team has long sought.
Nearly everything has gone right for the Yankees this season despite a rash of injuries and inconsistent starting pitching. They entered the All-Star break with the games' second-best record (57-31) and third-best run differential (+113). Acquiring a proven arm could do wonders for a Yankees' rotation that currently ranks 12th in baseball with a 4.22 ERA.
The question isn't if the team will get a starter. It's who. No one will ultimately know that answer until a move is made, but two candidates have stood out among the chatter - Trevor Bauer and Marcus Stroman.
While either player would be a strong addition to New York's wobbly staff, both offer unique skill sets...
It's not a given that Bauer will be traded this summer, according to Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic. The Indians aren't out of the playoff hunt by any means, and they'll get Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco back from the injured list sooner than later. However, Bauer will surely be dangled to interested teams.
Rosenthal reported that Tim Naehring, the teams VP of Baseball Operations and trusted advisor of GM Brian Cashman, was in attendance at Bauer's last start vs. Cincinnati (7 IP, 1 ER, 9 K). It was another strong outing in a season full of them for Bauer, a 28-year-old who finished 6th in American League Cy Young voting last year. He hasn't quite been as good as last season, but one could argue he's still performed better than any regular on the Yankees' staff.
In Bauer, the Yankees would be getting the league leader in innings (132), and one of the games true power arms. His 149 punchouts currently ranks fifth among starters, with four starts of 10+ whiffs, as well as seven outings of eight or more. Those numbers come out to a 10.2 K/9, the second-highest strikeout rate of his career.
In 0-2 counts, opponents have hit just .043 against him. Hitters haven't fared well in full counts either, mustering a .164 average against Bauer in such situations.
He could also provide a coveted quality to New York's rotation -- durability. Bauer has thrown at least 150+ innings for five straight seasons. Already at 132 innings, he'll likely reach the 150 plateau soon after the All-Star break.
Stroman, like Bauer, is also 28 years old. The Long Island native is clearly aware of the trade speculation and hasn't hid from it.
"New York's like the Mecca of the world, right?" Stroman said in late June to the Athletic's Lindsey Adler. "I love excitement. I love bright lights. I love competition. I love pressure. I've always loved pitching here even though I haven't necessarily pitched well here."
He's right about his struggles at Yankee Stadium (7.52 ERA, .318 opp BA over his last six starts there), but his numbers this season suggest there's reason for optimism.
Unlike Bauer, Stroman is not a strikeout pitcher (career 7.2 K/9). Rather, he's an extreme groundball pitcher, as evidenced by his 57.5 percent groundball rate (second highest in MLB).
Conversely, his 136 fly balls are 10th lowest among league starters. He's allowed just 10 long balls this season, and while that number could spike in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, there's reason to believe that his GB% and fly ball rate could work well in his favor over the course of a half season.
He's had his share of injuries both last year and this season, but it's likely that this year's version of Stroman is the real deal. Before blister problems cut his 2018 season short, he had pitched to a 3.61 ERA through his first four seasons. His 3.18 ERA and elite groundball rate this season imply that Stroman's 2018 was likely an anomaly.
Now both pitchers do share some similarities in a number of areas that could make it difficult for the Yankees in figuring out which to pursue the most. Here are a few:
- Both are free agents in 2021: Cashman has made it clear the organization won't give up prized pieces for a rental. Bauer and Stroman are both eligible for arbitration at the end of this season, and will reach free agency after the 2020 season. This will certainly be something to watch as the deadline nears.
- Pitch well against the AL East: In 18 innings against AL East teams this season, Bauer has allowed nine earned runs (seven of them in a dud against Baltimore) and struck out 19. Across three starts against Houston and Minnesota, he has allowed just seven runs across 23 innings while striking out 19. On the other hand, Stroman has given up only four earned runs and struck out 25 through 27.2 innings against his division opponents.
- Can navigate through lineups: Opponents batting average against Bauer increases only minimally through games.
- 1st time faced: .194
- 2nd: .236
- 3rd: .234
Stroman isn't far behind. He typically settles down as games go on.
- 1st time faced: .256
- 2nd: .236
- 3rd: .250
So who should the Yankees ultimately decide on? Depending on what trade packages Cashman can put together, either of these pitchers could make an immediate impact for the Yanks in the second half.